KL Minardi this weekend became the first team in modern Grand Prix history to run Formula One-type cars in mainland China, when a pair of Minardi F1x2 chassis took part in the groundbreaking Thunder in China event at the new Beijing Goldenport ...
KL Minardi this weekend became the first team in modern Grand Prix history to run Formula One-type cars in mainland China, when a pair of Minardi F1x2 chassis took part in the groundbreaking Thunder in China event at the new Beijing Goldenport circuit. The exciting, two-seater Formula One cars were driven by Malaysian star, Alex Yoong, who, fittingly, is of Chinese descent, and up-and-coming young Dutchman, Christijan Albers, a tester for the Minardi Formula One team and a highly experienced "chauffeur" at F1x2 events.
Despite sub-zero temperatures and foggy conditions at the circuit, located near Beijing International Airport, an enthusiastic crowd turned out to witness the cars in action. The first Minardi F1x2 passengers on this historic occasion were Dato' Dr Cam Soh, CEO of event title sponsor, BSA International, and Tianshu Shi of the Federation of Automobile Sport of China.
Unfortunately, morning snow curtailed Sunday's programme. Up to that point, the Minardi F1x2 cars had run with commendable reliability in the low ambient temperatures, covering over 30 laps of the Goldenport Circuit and permitting 14 excited passengers to experience the performance of a modern Formula One car. Despite the track being both cold and dusty on Saturday, Albers still managed to lower the lap record by 15 seconds!
"It's disappointing not to have been able to run today due to the bad weather and slippery track conditions," commented Alex Yoong at the conclusion of Sunday's programme, "but I still feel very honoured to have been here in China for such an historic event. It's always enjoyable being able to take passengers in the Minardi F1x2 cars, but this is a particularly special occasion, as we are introducing F1 to the Chinese people for the first time."
Albers was equally enthusiastic about the experience. "It's great to be in China," he observed. "The people are friendly and this has been a wonderful event, spoiled only by the snow today. Unfortunately, we can't run on skis, as far as I know. I particularly enjoyed giving a number of members of the media rides yesterday, though, as it helps them to understand how fast a Formula One car is and what it is the drivers do."
KL Minardi Team Principal, Paul Stoddart, summed up the weekend, saying, "All of us at Minardi feel particularly privileged to have been able to bring the sight and sound of Formula One cars to the Chinese people for the first time. Alex, Christijan, and the whole team, did a fantastic job all weekend."
"It's unfortunate that the first snowfall of the season in Beijing had to fall just as our programme was due to get under way this morning, but after monitoring the situation for several hours, it became clear we would not be able to run. The safety of the drivers and passengers must always come first, and there was no way we could ensure that in the prevailing conditions. Still, we hope the fans who came to see the Minardi F1x2 team in action at the Goldenport Circuit enjoyed the experience. We very much look forward to returning to China when the weather is a little more favourable, and putting on an exciting show for everyone."